Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US today and one of the major causes of skin cancer is sun exposure.
It may seem trivial, but the facts are disturbing. In the US, two people die of skin cancer every hour and experiencing more than 5 more sunburns could double your risk for melanoma.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops when cells that give the skin its color start to grow out of control. Melanoma is very dangerous, but early detection could save your life.
Why is sun safety important?
It’s great to feel the sun on your skin on a summer’s day, but ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can be very dangerous.
Over time, UV rays can damage your skin and even cause skin cancer, which is why sun safety is so important.
About 5 million people get treated for skin cancer each year in the US. While this is an alarming number, the good news is most skin cancers are easily preventable.
To keep your skin healthy, sunburn free and still have fun in the sun, here are some sun safety tips:
- Find shade. You might be heading to the beach, a barbecue or block party. As excited as you are, don’t forget to bring your umbrella along. If you forgot your umbrella, find the nearest tree, shelter or shaded area for relief from the sun.
- Wear hats. When it comes to staying safe in the sun, hats are not for fashion. Choose those that have a wide brim, UV protection and cover 30 to 40 percent of your face and eyes.
- Wear sunscreen all the time. While this might seem trivial, it is a very important sun smart safety tip. Always choose sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and those that protect against UVA and UVB rays. Use sunscreen as directed and apply about 15-20 minutes before you head outdoors. Be generous with the amount you use and reapply every hour or more often, especially if you are swimming.
- Wear protective clothes. Before you head out, wear long-sleeve, breathable shirts or long, loose skirts. If that is not an option, a short-sleeve T-shirt, wide-brimmed hat or a beach towel are alternatives.
- Limit your sun exposure. As the saying goes, too much of anything is bad. UV rays can destroy your skin very quickly — in as little as 15 minutes. Avoid rays as much as you can and don’t leave your skin exposed for long outdoors.
- Look for changes with your skin. Early detection of skin cancer is crucial to treatment. Inspect your skin and make note of any new bumps, growths or spots. Talk to your health provider if you notice any changes.
While these tips show you how to stay safe in the sun, it is not the only way to damage your skin with UV rays. Indoor tanning beds, lamps and booths expose your skin to very high UV radiation.
Sun safety tips for kids & teens
Lets not forget the kids. All the tips mentioned above apply to children, especially hats and protective coverings.
- For infants (under 12 months old), keep them out of direct sunlight as much as possible. They do not have the protection adults have against the sun’s rays yet and can suffer serious skin damage. Provide them with shade or protective clothing to shield rays if you have to be out in the sun.
- Most toddlers can use sunscreen safely. Make sure to test a small amount of the sunscreen on their wrists to make sure they aren’t irritated by it. Reapply sunscreen as much as possible especially if they sweat or have been swimming.
- For teens, be aware of the dangers of tanning beds and salons. Exposure to high UV rays from indoor tanning appliances could cause serious skin damage.
- Ask about sun safety policies at your kids’ school. Every school treats this issue differently, so ask questions; it’s important to protect your children from sun exposure.
What is the safest time to be in the sun?
The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. UV rays are also strongest during the summer months and at higher altitudes.
That being said, sunburn and skin damage can still occur during cooler times of the day and even on cloudy days. It is still very important to adhere to these sun smart safety tips as much as you can.
It’s natural to want to spend some time outside as the weather warms up. Especially in the US where winters are longer, the spring and summer months are a welcome change.
As long as you observe social distancing and protect your skin from direct exposure to the sun, using the sun safety tips listed above, you should be golden. Enjoy your summer!